Most charities today rely on volunteers to deliver at least part of the services they provide. Some small charities are run entirely by volunteers.

Most of us would agree that recruiting volunteers is one of today’s charity key tasks. But how many of us who are paid take time off to consider what motivates volunteers and how to treat them ?

Some years ago, Minerva ran a major capital campaign for a local hospice. Thanks to a highly organised and motivational Campaign Secretary, teams of volunteers were brought on board and retained throughout the campaign – some going on to become regular volunteers at the hospice. The Campaign Secretary ensured that there were always clear and meaningful tasks for volunteers – both for those who planned their attendance in advance and those who called in without prior notice. She kept a little “in tray” of tasks so volunteers could choose what they wanted to do from a limited menu. Working conditions were good, refreshments supplied – and volunteers were always thanked at the end of each session. Sounds obvious, doesn’t it?

But how many charities actually do this?

Most charities though need volunteers on a continuous basis, and keeping up their enthusiasm requires dedication and skill. Volunteers want to know that their efforts have been appreciated and that they are playing an important role in the delivery of the charity’s work.

Volunteer time needs to be properly organised and tasks thought through, so that whatever time an individual volunteer is able and willing to devote to the charity’s work, they will feel at the end that they have been properly briefed and have had a task which is really worthwhile and has contributed to the charity’s services, even in a small way.

There are few tasks which well briefed and highly motivated volunteers cannot take on. When The Volunteer Fundraiser’s Handbook was published in 2014, it filled a well-defined need – the need of those charities where the entire fundraising effort was undertaken by volunteers. Judging by the sales and the review comments, there are many more such charities than most of us would have believed!

In the final analysis, we need to look after our volunteers as well as we look after our beneficiaries; and thank them as well as we thank our donors. That way, they’ll be coming back for more and your charity will benefit from a cost-effective and enthusiastic team.